No sooner do we have JVC unleashing a 32-inch LCD TV combined with a built-in hard disk recording system -- the LT-32DE9BJ -- than LG steps forward with a combi 32-inch TV of its own, the £500 32LG4000. Only this time it's not a PVR that's been built in, but a DVD player...
Despite all the hype surrounding Blu-ray right now, DVD continues to do massive business. So while die-hard future-heads might wish that the 32LG4000 had a built-in Blu-ray player, there really is more than enough life left in DVD to justify the combi's existence.
In fact, the idea of putting a Blu-ray deck into a TV as small as 32 inches actually seems rather incongruous to us -- and would probably have made the TV prohibitively expensive.
The DVD player is tucked neatly away down the TV's right-hand rear side so as not to compromise the TV's rather gorgeous red and black design. The TV's speakers, too, have been hidden out of sight -- though before you start worrying about the effect this might have on their sound quality, it's worth pointing out that they've been tuned by industry audio guru Mark Levinson. So there you go.
Despite having a DVD deck built-in, the 32LG4000 still provides three HDMI inputs for other sources to use, and unlike the recently reviewed JVC PVR combi TV, there's also a D-Sub port for PC use.
Other handy features include 1080p/24 format support, the ability of the DVD deck to play DivX discs, and so much flexibility in its picture adjustments that it can be professionally calibrated by an Imaging Science Foundation engineer. Starting our tests with that all-important DVD deck, we were very pleased indeed to find only low-level traces of MPEG blocking or twitching noise, and decent levels of sharpness.
The 32LG4000's TV and HD pictures, meanwhile, are agreeably bright and punchy, with vivid colours and clean whites. HD pictures look reasonably detailed too, considering this TV doesn't have much in the way of image processing (not even LG's usually omnipresent XD Engine system).
The lack of processing actually helps the 32LG4000's pictures look very natural, too, thanks to the absence of any sort of processing side effects -- especially as moving objects suffer surprisingly little from LCD's blurring problems.
The outside of the 32LG4000 only holds one disappointment: the fact that a provided USB port turns out to only be a service-update input, and not a means of showing JPEG pictures on the TV.
In terms of specification, we could feel upset that the 32LG4000 isn't a 1080p 'Full HD' set (it can accept the input, but scales it down). But then its lower 720p HD Ready resolution is arguably better suited to the standard-definition DVDs it's been built to play, and you wouldn't see much improvement on such a small screen anyway.
The lack of much in the way of picture processing on the 32LG4000 also means that its standard-definition pictures look slightly soft and rough around the edges. But without doubt the single biggest weakness of the 32LG4000 is a familiar one with LCD technology: shallow black levels.
As a result of this, dark scenes tend to look rather washed-out when you're watching films or anything else with plenty of contrast. What's more, this problem is exacerbated by the way the picture loses contrast and colour if you have to watch it from anywhere to the side rather than being right in front of it.
Finally, while LG's 'invisible speaker' system tends to work rather well on the brand's larger sets, here it can leave action movies sounding somwhat unclear and distorted during their most raucous moments.
There's nothing spectacularly good about the 32LG4000 in performance terms. It's just a solid all-rounder, no more, no less. But it sneaks into the sevens on our scoring system on account of its cleverly integrated DVD player, which makes it an unusually practical -- and surprisingly affordable -- kitchen or bedroom option.
Edited by Nick Hide